Here for your consideration (as Rod Serling used to say) are two photographs. The first is of Patience Gray, author of a number of books including Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, The Cyclades and Apulia In this picture she’s in England having a picnic, not long after the war, sandwich wrapper on the ground, cigarette in hand:
And here’s Alice Waters, presiding genius of Chez Panisse restaurant, apparently having some sort of spiritual experience involving sunflowers:
They’re both in the news because of a couple of new books. One is Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman. The other is Coming to My Senses: the Memoir of a Counter Culture Cook by Alice Waters.
Gray is the far less well known of the two, an English food and travel writer who was the Observer’s first “woman’s editor.” The blessed Angela Carter wrote that, “Patience Gray helped to instigate the concept of the cookery book as literary form – part recipes, part travel book, part self-revelation, part art object.”
A recent a piece in the New York Times said, “She has never expanded Chez Panisse to other cities, or jumped fully into celebrity in ways that could have promoted her agenda. Rather, she prefers to personally cajole every politician, journalist and philanthropist she meets.”
I’ve been to Chez Panisse and had a very good time, but I can’t help thinking I’d have had a better time hanging out with Patience Gray.
After an ear-bashing from Waters, I suspect Prince Charles might feel the same way.